Tuesday, March 15, 2022

EASY CASA BOLOGNESE SAUCE OVER PAPPARDELLE

The first time I tasted Bolognese sauce was my first visit to Italy in 1969. I had it again in a restaurant located near Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C. It was only on their "Primi Piatti" (first dishes) menu. I always ordered it for my main course. I worked on duplicating this recipe for 20 years.

You can make Bolognese sauce with just ground beef, if you prefer.


Soffritto
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic

Ragù

2 T olive oil, divided
2
 lbs ground chuck 
4 links mild Italian sausages, removed from casings
½ cup dry white wine
4 cups beef broth
2 (6-oz) cans tomato paste
1 cup water
1 ½ t sea salt
½ t finely ground black pepper

4 T unsalted butter

1 cup whole milk
2 t dried oregano
8 leaves fresh basil, torn or chiffonade
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ t red pepper flakes (optional)
Fresh basil, for garnish

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the carrots, onion, celery, and garlic 
until finely minced; or you can finely mince them with a knife.
In a Dutch oven or large pot, add the 1 tablespoon of the oil and cook the soffritto over medium heat for 10 minutes. Spoon mixture into a large bowl and set aside.

In the same pot, over medium heat, cook the Italian sausage 
until golden, breaking up chunks with a wooden spoon.
Remove to the bowl with the soffritto.
Add the rest of the olive oil and a third of the ground beef and brown until crumbly, about 10 minutes.
Spoon into the large bowl with the sausage and soffritto
Repeat with half of the rest of the beef, then spoon into the bowl with the cooked vegetables.
Repeat with the last of the beef.
Add the wine, to the 3rd batch of beef, stirring up browned bits on the bottom of the pan and cook a couple of minutes.

Return the soffritto, Italian sausage, and ground beef to the pot.
Add the beef broth, tomato paste, water, salt, and pepper; mix in well.
Simmer very gently, partially covered, for 2 hours, stirring often.

Add the butter and rest of the ingredients and simmer another 15 minutes.

Boil the pappardelle in salted water until al dente "to the tooth(about 10-12 minutes). 
Drain into a colander and then pour back into the pot. 
Spoon in some of the Bolognese sauce and stir to combine.
Spoon into warm pasta bowls and add a little more sauce, if desired, and garnish with fresh basil.

Makes enough for 2-3 more meals.

Buon Appetito!

Sunday, February 13, 2022

CRISPY CLASSIC CHICKEN PARMIGIANA - Pollo alla Parmigiana

This is one of America's favorite Italian dishes. In Italy, they make it with veal.


Lee's Kitchen Tips:
You may wonder what the difference is between marinara sauce and tomato sauce.
Marinara sauce is a tomato sauce without any meat. Tomato sauce can be flavored with pancetta and then removed.
You can buy canned crushed tomatoes to use in place of whole tomatoes.



Marinara Sauce
3 T olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 (28-oz) cans whole peeled Italian tomatoes, preferably San Marzano style
½ t red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
½ cup dry white wine
1 t granulated sugar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh basil

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
Add the onion and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the onions are cooking, pour the tomatoes in a bowl and hand-crush them, removing any hard center cores, and set aside.
Alternatively, use an immersion blender to chop the tomatoes.

Add the red pepper flakes and garlic to the saucepan and sauté another minute or two.
Pour the crushed tomatoes into the saucepan and cook, uncovered for 30 minutes, while you prepare the chicken.

Chicken
2 boneless chicken breasts
½ cup all-purpose flour
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
1 T water
1 cup seasoned dry breadcrumbs
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
¼ cup avocado oil
8 oz freshly grated or torn mozzarella cheese
2 T thinly sliced fresh basil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut each chicken breast in half lengthwise, and set aside on a platter. 
Now you will have 4 thiner chicken breasts.

In a shallow bowl, add the flour and season to taste with salt and pepper.
In another shallow bowl, add the egg and water and whisk with a fork to combine.
In a third shallow bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, panko, and ½ cup of the Parmigiano cheese.

Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.

Dredge each chicken breast into the seasoned flour, then dip into the beaten eggs and finally into the breadcrumb mixture. Set aside on the same platter.
Cook chicken 4-5 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

Place chicken on prepared baking sheet, top each breast with a couple of tablespoons of tomato sauce.  
Top with 2 slices of mozzarella cheese and 2 tablespoons of Parmigiano cheese.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, until cheese is bubbling and the chicken is completely cooked through.

Serve with spaghetti and a green salad.

Serves 2 to 4

CASA LASAGNE BOLOGNESE AL FORNO

I use a combination of Asiago and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in this lasagne. Asiago is similar to Parmigiano because it has a slightly nutty and sweet flavor. The Ragù is enough for two lasagne or enough for another meal or two with pasta. I start out making the Ragù one to three days before I assemble the lasagne. Many times, I freeze the unbaked lasagne to have another evening. Just remember to bring it out to defrost before baking. This style of lasagne is also known as Tuscan Lasagne.  You can also substitute Pecorino Romano for the Asiago.



Ragù
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic
2 T extra-light olive oil or avocado oil, divided
¼ lb pancetta, diced
2 lbs lean ground beef
½ lb ground pork
½ lb ground veal 
½ cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup water
1 (12-oz) can tomato paste

4 T unsalted butter

2 cups whole milk
2 t dried oregano
8 leaves fresh basil, torn or chiffonade
¼ t nutmeg
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ t red pepper flakes (optional)

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the carrots, onion, celery, and garlic 
until fairly fine; like a minced soffritto.

In a Dutch oven, add the 1 tablespoon of the oil and cook the soffritto over medium heat 
for 10 minutes. Spoon mixture into a very large bowl and set aside.

In the same Dutch oven over medium heat, add the rest of the oil and cook the pancetta until golden.
Add half of the ground beef and brown until crumbly, about 10 minutes.
As the meat cooks, break up any chunks with a wooden spoon into small pieces. 
Spoon into the large bowl with the soffritto
Repeat with the rest of the beef, then spoon into the bowl with the cooked vegetables.
Repeat with the pork and veal and brown; leaving in the pan.
Return the browned beef and vegetables to the pot.
Add the wine, stirring up browned bits on the bottom of the pan. 
Add the chicken stock, water, and tomato paste; mix in well.
Simmer very gently, partially covered, for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Add the butter and rest of the ingredients and simmer another 15 minutes.


Besciamella (Béchamel)

6 T unsalted butter
6 T all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk
1 ½ t sea salt
½ t grated nutmeg

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter until foaming; add flour and cook, 
whisking constantly for 2 minutes. Do not brown.
Gradually whisk in milk. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a gentle boil, while whisking constantly. Add salt and nutmeg, reduce the heat to the lowest setting, and
simmer 2 minutes, until it thickens slightly.
Turn off heat and set aside.

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 cup freshly grated Asiago cheese
Mix the above cheese together in a bowl.

1 lb fresh lasagne sheets


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.


Spread a layer of ragù in the bottom of a lasagna pan. 

Cover with a sheet or two of pasta, a layer of besciamella, a layer of grated mixed Parmigiano and Asiago, and a layer of ragù.
Repeat 3 more times, ending with a layer of besciamella.

Sprinkle the last of the grated cheeses over the top.


Cover loosely with parchment-lined aluminum foil or spray your inside of the foil with oil and bake in the oven for 1 hour. 
Remove foil, add a little more cheese, and continue to bake another 15 minutes
Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 to 12 minutes before cutting and serving.

Serves 6 to 8











Tuesday, February 1, 2022

CHICKEN & TORTELLINI SOUP

If you love chicken noodle soup and you love cheese tortellini, you will love this soup. Since the weather is sO cold, this soup will warm you up on a winter evening. I served it with garlic bread and a green salad.




2 boneless chicken breasts
1 T extra-light olive oil or avocado oil
4 carrots, peeled and diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ t red pepper flakes, optional
4 cups good quality chicken stock
1 t freeze-dried or dried basil
1 t freeze-dried or dried oregano
1 package fresh cheese tortellini
¼ cup finely chopped Italian parsley
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Place chicken breasts in a saucepan and cover with water.
Simmer, partially covered until chicken is cooked through.
Drain and place chicken on a plastic cutting board to cool.
When cool, chop into bite-size pieces and set aside.

In a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-low heat, add the oil and sauté the carrots, celery, and onion for 10 minutes.
Add the garlic and sauté another minute or two.
Add the chicken stock, basil, and oregano.
Simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the tortellini and simmer until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the chopped chicken and simmer another minute or two.

Add the parsley and ladle into warm soup bowls.
Sprinkle on some grated cheese and serve.

Serves 6 to 8

Thursday, January 13, 2022

PASTA & BEANS - Pasta e Fagioli

This is the classic soup of pasta and beans from Southern Italy, especially popular in Napoli and the Amalfi coast. Don't be a fool...eat pasta fazool! It is truly amore!


2 oz pancetta, diced
2 T extra-light olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ t red pepper flakes
½ cup dry white wine
2 T tomato paste
2 quarts chicken stock
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 (3-inch) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind 

2 (14 oz) cans cannellini beans with liquid
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup ditalini or ditali pasta

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


In a large pot or Dutch oven, fry the pancetta over medium heat until golden.
Add the oil to the pot and sauté the onion until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. 
Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté another minute.
Add wine and simmer 3 minutes.
Add tomato paste, chicken stock, sprig of thyme, bay leaf, and cheese rind.
Simmer 20 minutes. 

Add beans and simmer 10 more minutes.
Remove the sprig of thyme, bay leaf, and cheese rind; season to taste with salt and 
pepper. 
Add pasta and simmer another 5 to 6 minutes.

Serve with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and some grated Parmigiano cheese. 


Serves 4 to 6 


Saturday, December 18, 2021

SANFRANCISCO-STYLE CIOPPINO

Cioppino, pronounced “chuh-Pee-no,” is an Italian-American seafood stew made with the catch of the day. San Francisco Italian-Americans invented this recipe in the 1800s, and it must include Dungeness crab. Most countries that border the ocean have their own seafood stew. The French have a Provençal stew called bouillabaisse. In Chile, they have caldillo de congrio. In Brazil, it’s moqueca, and in Positano, Italy, they have pesce all’aqua pazza or “fish in crazy water.” 

To save time, you can buy a good quality marinara sauce from your grocery store.
Because I live on the East coast now, I use Snow crabs instead of Dungeness crab. 



2 cups (500 ml) Casa Marinara Sauce (on page 64 in my cookbook) or store-bought marinara sauce

Soffrito “under-fried”
1 T extra-light olive oil or avocado oil
1 small leek, cleaned, white part diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and minced
2 bay leaves
1 clove garlic, minced

In a large pot or Dutch oven, add the olive oil; over low heat, sauté the leek for 5 minutes.
Add the carrot and bay leaves and sauté for another 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook another minute. Set aside.

Seafood
1 cooked and cleaned Dungeness crab or 3 to 4 Snow Crabs 
12 fresh mussels
12 Little Neck fresh clams
½ cup Pinot Grigio or other dry white wine
2 (8 oz) bottles clam broth
1 large fillet of cod or other white fish, cut into bite-size pieces
12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
12 sea scallops, cut in half
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
Extra-virgin olive oil, for finishing

Remove the meat from the crab's body.
Remove the meat from a few crab claws, reserving some claws for garnish.
Set aside.

If using wild mussels, remove the beards with a pair of “kitchen only” needle-nose pliers.
Scrub the mussels and clams with a brush under cold running water; set aside in a bowl.
Add the wine and the clam broth to the pot with the soffrito and heat to a simmer.
Add the mussels and clams and simmer, covered, until they open about 8 minutes.
Remove the mussels and clams with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl, cover and set aside.
Discard any that failed to open.

To the pot, add the Casa Marina Sauce and simmer for a couple of minutes to heat through.
Add the fish, shrimp, and scallops.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and simmer another 5 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves and divide the cioppino into warmed bowls, leaving some broth in the pan.
Arrange the mussels and clams around the sides of each bowl.
Top with the reserved crabmeat in the center of each bowl and pour the rest of the hot broth over each bowl.

Tuck in the crab legs and sprinkle with parsley and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
Serve immediately.

Serves 4